LoRaWAN: Enhancing Mining Operations with Real-Time Visibility
Illustration: © IoT For All

In the mining sector, operations are complex and hazardous. Non-visibility in operations quickly escalates to not just financial setbacks but threatens workers’ safety as well. In mining, optimizing operations, automating, and implementing real-time location systems becomes imperative.

Operational Challenges in Coal Mines

In complex operational environments like coal mines, activities occur around the clock. Ensuring the precise location of workers, equipment, and fleets centrally poses significant challenges. This lack of visibility leads to substantial inefficiencies in operations management, ultimately translating into considerable costs.

Managers struggle to make informed decisions, exacerbating these inefficiencies. Critical questions such as monitoring operational status, anticipating potential threats, ensuring workforce safety, and preventing unauthorized access remain unanswered, hindering smooth and efficient facility operations.

Moreover, the absence of irrefutable data acts as a bottleneck in tracking defined metrics. Existing systems, including attendance management, fleet management systems (FMS), SAP, and closed-circuit television (CCTV), operate in silos, lacking integration to harness and correlate available data for real-time decision-making.

In our experience from talking to various mining corporations from across the world, below are common challenges managers struggle to address:

  • Not knowing where people are spending their time and how.
  • Not knowing if people are being productive.
  • Not knowing if an adequate number of people are working.
  • Not knowing if people are working overtime and how much.
  • Not knowing if all workplace compliances are being followed or not.
  • Inefficiencies in payroll management.
  • In case of emergencies, not knowing the location of all the people, if everyone is safe, or if there is someone who needs help and assistance.
  • Reactive reporting and management of unsafe acts and practices.

Connected Mining to Address Operational Imperatives

Real-time location systems (RTLSs) can immensely benefit any corporation in streamlining operations, making operations safer, compliant, and efficient. Using gateways and sensors, managers get granular real-time data and insights via tracking and monitoring platforms like Syook InSite.

The location of all the tagged assets and people is computed in near real-time, enabling automated data capture for a plethora of events, processes, and activities. In mining, real-time location systems become essential for tracking and safety.

Using rule-based allocation of machines to operators, capturing the actual time spent by operators in various areas to workers entering restricted areas, RTLS provides irrefutable data for tracking key operational metrics.

For example, you can instantly flag non-compliance when workers enter restricted areas. In other instances, operators or even machines (movable) can be flagged when found outside their allocated zone during scheduled work hours.

Such capabilities drastically enhance workers’ safety and compliance adherence, allowing managers to take proactive decisions and corrective measures. Using the platform, they were able to:

  • Get real-time attendance of all their workers.
  • Get real-time granular data about where workers are spending their time and how.
  • Gain insights into their worker’s productivity.
  • Get real-time alerts on shortfall in the number of people working in their facilities.
  • Know workers serving overtime in each shift and how much.
  • Enforce strong workplace compliance and get real-time alerts when something goes wrong to take immediate action.
  • Improve their payroll management using the highly accurate and granular data recorded.
  • Improved emergency response with location awareness and real-time worker safety alerts.
  • Implement real-time reporting and management of unsafe acts and practices.
  • Connecting the Disconnected with LoRaWAN.

LoRaWAN Network Technology

LoRaWAN network technology is the only suitable solution for opencast mines as it requires negligible fixed infrastructure and power sources.

In addition, LoRaWAN provides hybrid locations using a blend of BLE and GPS, offering the best of both, low-cost BLE, and long-range wireless. Just 2 LoRaWAN gateways deployed at suitable locations along the periphery of a mine (size 10,000 Ha) are sufficient to provide 100 percent coverage while ensuring 1+1 high availability.

The 100 percent network coverage ensures that any worker in distress can easily send the SOS message (using the trigger button on the LoRaWAN ID Badge) to the control room.

LoRaWAN & the Cloud

LoRaWAN coupled with a cloud-based, modular, and no-code application, allows for real-time location systems in mining. With negligible fixed infrastructure requirements and a robust scalable RTLS platform, you can observe immediate operational benefits:

  1. Increased safety: Control access to restricted areas, monitor visitors to the facility, and improve the efficiency of your emergency response plan with the application, a cost-effective solution for increasing safety standards.
  2. Improved productivity: RTLS platforms can quickly help reveal optimization opportunities in your operations. It offers the ability to conduct time-motion studies to increase worker efficiency and optimize resource flow.
  3. Better compliance: Compliance monitoring is time-consuming. However, with the right rule configuration on the application dashboard, several aspects of compliance monitoring can be automated based on the use case.

Unlocking operational efficiency and bolstering worker safety hinges on the automation of critical processes within mining operations. To harness the potential of digital applications for enhanced productivity, mining companies require robust and ubiquitous wireless connectivity, spanning both surface and subterranean environments.

Dependable communication infrastructure serves as the cornerstone for revolutionizing the mining sector and fostering the development of interconnected digital mines.

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